The dog days aren't over
Making friends with wolves, the birth of a clone pup, fishing foxes. Today's for the canines (real and robot).
The relationship between dogs and humans goes way, way back. Tens of thousands of years before the horrid beast that’s come to be known as Roy (jk) stole my whole heart, people had already begun forming mutual attachments with dogs. It’s been thought that this behavior on dogs’ part came about after domestication, but a new study suggests it may run deeper than that. Wolves can apparently bond with humans, too.
Research conducted by a team at Stockholm University in Sweden showed that wolf pups can display similar attachment behaviors toward humans as those we see in our dogs, like recognizing a familiar person and seeming calmed by that person in moments of stress.
The test compared the behaviors of 12 dogs and 10, 23-week-old wolf pups. All of the involved animals were raised by the researchers from 10 days old. In a scenario designed to create an “unstable” environment, a person familiar to the animals and another who was a stranger to them took turns entering and leaving the room. And, like the dogs, wolves directed more attention and their affection toward the person they knew. “It was very clear that the wolves, as the dogs, preferred the familiar person over the stranger,” says Dr. Christina Hansen Wheat, who led the research.
It might seem an obvious response, but for the modern wolf — an animal that doesn’t share such an intimate history with humans as dogs do — it’s pretty telling. The ability to form attachments with humans, the researchers suggest, may not be exclusive to the domesticated dog. In the early days of domestication, then, wolves that were especially friendly to humans may have been a choice pick for selective breeding.
Scientists in China cloned an Arctic wolf using donor cells from a skin sample taken off a wild wolf named Maya, and a beagle as the surrogate mother. The pup born in Beijing on June 10 is said to be the world’s first clone of this species.
Pet cloning company Sinogene and Beijing Wildlife Park announced the birth last month, when the wolf pup reached 100 days of life. The team says it’s in good health… and another is on the way.
Of course, cloning is a pretty contentious issue. For many, it raises a lot of concerns in both an ethical and existential sense. (Input ran a really interesting feature on pet cloning earlier this year, which you should check out: Bring in the clones: Instagrammers are genetically replicating their pets). These scientists say the efforts will help preserve biodiversity and keep endangered species in existence.
In any case, here’s the pup:
Did you know that foxes go fishing for their food sometimes?
Red foxes are opportunistic predators. They hunt, they scavenge, and they eat all sorts of things. Occasionally, that includes fish — though it’s never quite been clear how they obtained these catches. Now we know.
For the first time, a red fox has been observed actively fishing, plucking carp from the shallow waters they visit to spawn their eggs. In a paper published this summer, researchers describe watching a fox in southern Extremadura, an autonomous community in Spain, catch 10 carp in a single outing. While the fox, an adult male, would sometimes take a few bites from the fish it caught, it more frequently just carried it off some small distance from the shore to leave or bury. Later, a female fox showed up and took off with some of that stored food, leading the researchers to suspect this was the male fox’s intention all along.
“The purpose of these captures may have been to supply prey for the female and the pups, because the observations occurred during the known breeding season of red foxes in Iberian Mediterranean habitats,” they note. “However, we did not observe any pups, so this assumption remains unconfirmed.”
See him fishing here.
And now, I’ll leave you with this: Four-legged robots are getting better at running on rough terrain. You know, to more nimbly chase you down, or whatever (or to better help in search-and-rescue scenarios, sure). That’s all thanks to a new algorithm developed by a team at the University of California, San Diego which is designed to make the robots more adept at navigating outdoor environments and avoiding both stationary and moving obstacles.
Watch the headless quadruped scuttle around here.
‘Til next time!